Could the “Nest” be Best?: Another Take on Shared Custody

Some divorcing parents are taking a tip from the robins and the sparrows. Rather than shuttling their kiddos from Mom’s house to Dad’s, they are allowing the kids to remain in the family home while they “fly” in and out. This out-of-the-box option is aptly named “bird nesting.”

Bird nesting is nothing new. This creative custody arrangement seems to have taken flight about twenty years ago. There’s no way to know how many divorced families successfully “nest”, but recent articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post indicate it may be more popular than you might imagine.

Like our feathered friends, parents who can negotiate a bird nesting arrangement fly in to feed and care for their “chicks” and then fly off again as Mom or Dad arrives. In theory, this arrangement cuts down on turmoil in the children’s lives since they aren’t ping-ponging from Mom to Dad throughout the year. But birds of a feather may not always flock together.

“Clearly, bird nesting will work for some but not all parents,” says Edward Kruk, PhD. in an article for Psychology Today.  “A bird’s nest arrangement will only work if parents live in close proximity, or are able to be in the family home when it is their turn for parenting the kids. It works best when parents are co-parenting, as opposed to one parent being a full-time caregiver with the other a ‘visiting’ parent.”

Although bird nesting can save money on purchasing duplicate clothing, furniture, etc. for the children, it will cost Momma and Pappa bird more in rent or mortgage as they maintain the children’s nest and their own separate abode as well. If you think that financial trade off is worth it, consider Kruk’s guidelines for successful bird nesting:

  1. A clearly drafted co-parenting plan or negotiated schedule at the outset is essential.
  2. Bird nesting works best when parents are able to separate their co-parenting responsibilities from their previous marital conflicts, and remain amicable and cooperative as they confer about continuing household arrangements and the children’s needs.
  3. Both parents need to be prepared to maintain a certain level of consistency of purpose, discipline, and child-raising techniques; this means being able to communicate clearly and peacefully.
  4. Household and house maintenance arrangements and ground rules must be absolutely clear, and each parent must closely stick to the agreed-upon arrangements.
  5. Ongoing mutual respect is vital.

Bird nesting also requires a skillful family law attorney who can ensure that you and your children are financially safeguarded should circumstances change.  Of course, bird nesting is just one non-traditional way of sharing custody. Talk to your divorce attorney about whether an atypical custody agreement could be right for you. Ultimately, if you and your soon-to-be-ex are willing to consider the most advantageous arrangements for your children, your attorneys can formulate a healthy plan that works best for your family.